Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is a good example of the old cliche ‘good things come in small packages.’ Although it is the country’s smallest national park, it is also among the most visited, for good reason. Within it’s 683 hectares you’ll find beautiful (and sometimes deserted) beaches, rain forest, and plenty of wildlife wandering about (or just sitting or hanging in trees).

Manuel Antonio was the second national park I visited, after Poas. Poas was certainly beautiful and interesting, but Manuel Antonio had a lot more to offer, to my tastes. After paying to enter the park, had to cross a little makeshift bridge to get across a tiny creek. Some enterprising local kids had put a small boat across it, immobile, and I just walked, tipping them a hundred colones. Once in the park itself, you have the option of going it along or joining one of the guided tours. Being the loner that I am, I took the do it yourself route.

As you walk in along a path through a sandy forest, you may see an iguana or two. I did, at least. Naturally I took pictures, since I had never seen an iguana in the wild before. I continued down the path and as it approached the first beach I ran into a group of primates. Some were capuchin monkeys begging for scraps of food from the other primates, homo sapiens. It was nice to see cousins getting along like that.

About there you come to the first of the parks beaches. Because it’s the first, it’s also most likely to be inhabited. I admit to pausing a short time to gaze at the scenery… the ocean, the vegetation, the sunbathers (not necessarily in that order). Once I had enough of that I decided to move along and see what else the park had to offer.

There are lots of trails within the park, so I had to make a choice. I chose to head for the most far away beach, not all that far away, and took a path that went up through the forest and gave me a good feel for the non-beach part of the park.

I’ll give a little heads-up here and say that although the climate is not stinking hot, it’s definitely warm enough to work up a good sweat even just walking a relatively easy trail. Being a refugee from a rather dry place, I was (and still am) rather unaccustomed to much humidity. I found myself dripping perspiration by the time I reached the wonderful little isolated beach I was looking for.

Now I had heard, and paid attention to, all the warnings about theft and so forth, so I was going to guard my stuff carefully, most of which consisted of my wallet and my newish digital camera. After I was suitably unclothed, I put my ‘stuff’ in a bundle and waded out a little ways to where there was a nice big rock safe from the little waves that were stirring in the water. Now that my worldly possessions were safe, I jumped in the water and oooh it felt good! I don’t know what the water temperature was, having left my thermometer back in the USA, but to me it was perfect. Just cool enough to be a nice change from my heated condition but not cold enough to cause any ‘shock’ as I jumped in. Ahhh, this was the life.

I probably spent 45 minutes or so just enjoying floating around, swimming a little, standing in the clear water up to my neck. Eventually I decided it was time to move on and climbed out of the water up on to the big rock where I had lain my earthly goods. It occurred to me that even though the big rock was great to keep my stuff safe, I couldn’t get dressed there because it was too far from the shore not to get wet going back.

I grabbed my bundle and waded to a smaller rock that was partly in the water, partly on the shore. I began to dress and came to the trickiest part, putting on the shoes and socks. I decided to use the socks to dry my feet and just wear the shoes. Well, it was kind of tricky getting this all done on a small rock without getting my feet dirty again, but I managed that part okay. I also managed to knock my nearly new camera right in the Pacific Ocean.

Well, if you gotta die, might as well be on a tropical beach. The camera was indeed toast, although the memory card still worked and I got the pictures I took to that point. People who saw the pictures and asked why I stopped taking more got the story you just heard.

I’m not really sure how far Manuel Antonio is from San Jose at the moment. They just opened the new highway, but it hasn’t been around long enough to get a good feel for just how much time you save over the old route. It used to take about 3.5 hours to get there from SJ, but if you can avoid traffic jams (busy times) you might make it in as little as 2.5 hours, maybe even less.

There are plenty of hotels near Manuel Antonio, in the community of the same name (not within the park). If you want to save a little money you can stay in Quepos, which is just a short ride from the park, 15 or 20 minutes. In any case, if you’d like to see some beautiful beaches and see a little (or a lot of) nature, Manuel Antonio is a great destination.

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  1. Me and my GF hiked trail #8 and it was beautiful and saw scenic views of the ocean that MOST tourists did not see, they take the more traveleled route. Yes it is beautiful and an amazing park.

  2. Jim & Carol says:

    Pretty crowded last Tuesday.